Episode 218: How and Why to Build a Platform, with Stephen Woessner.
Stephen is the CEO of Predictive ROI and the host of the Onward Nation podcast. He is the author of two bestselling books, speaker, trainer, and his digital marketing insights have been featured in SUCCESS, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, and other media.
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Good Morning Onward Nation — I’m Stephen Woessner. Just wanted to start off today’s solocast with a big thank you.
I appreciate all of the feedback — thoughts — recommendations — and encouragement following last week’s solocast.
I love hearing when our work is helping to make a difference for you — to create an impact for you, Onward Nation — and perhaps this may sound odd — but I also love hearing when we have missed the mark. If and when we underdeliver — because knowing that — helps us get better! All of your feedback helps us move onward to that next level.
So thank you, Onward Nation.
I appreciate you being here. I appreciate you sharing some of you invaluable time with me today. Please continue letting us know what you think.
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So for today’s solocast…I am going to take one of the themes from last week and go an inch wide and a mile deep.
You may recall, that last week’s solocast, I addressed the slippery slope — the mental trap — that is so easy for any business owner to fall into. It is the trap of thinking that becoming an overnight success is possible — and — comparing your back-of-stage with another company’s front-of-stage. It’s a tempting thought — it can be so intoxicating to hope for — or to do those comparisons — but there is no such thing as an overnight success, Onward Nation.
The insights I learned directly from Verne Harnish, founder of EO and Gazelles — during episode 205 speak directly to this point. Verne took me behind the green curtain at Apple to discuss how they struggled for their first 25 years — 25 years, Onward Nation. And finally in 2001, they began to rapidly scale following the introduction of the iPod. But it took 25 years of struggle — and nearly going broke several times — in order to get there.
Verne also shared the story of Peter Drucker, the godfather of modern day management…and how Peter reached his most creative and productive point in his career after the age of 65. Peter wrote twice the number of books after his 65th birthday than he did when he was younger. It takes a long time Onward Nation to curate that level of content and develop that depth of expertise.
Verne then shared insights regarding Picasso and the number of masterpieces he produced after turning 50 years old. Picasso created the majority of his most famous works after he had turned 50!
And then the insights I learned from Linda Kaplan Thaler — our guest in episode 226, which will air on Monday, May 2nd — and the story she shared about the acclaimed novelist, James Patterson. Thanks to Linda — we now know James had been hard at work perfecting his craft for 21 years before his first bestseller. Honing his skills, day in and day out. Every day — hours and hours — working on his craft from 4:00 in the morning until 8:00 — and then going off to his day job at one of New York City’s leading advertising agencies, where he worked with Linda for over 17 years. An amazing story of grit, tenacity, persistence, and never giving up.
So for today’s solocast…I am going to share some additional perspective and lessons I began to share last week regarding what I have learned from spending time with Gary Vaynerchuk. I will share those lessons deeper — and then connect them to what I want to share with you today, which is how and why you should build a platform to grow revenue for your business. But again — this too, Onward Nation is a long term play. Building a platform is not an overnight thing as you will see with Gary’s story.
There are no shortcuts. It takes hard work and disciplined effort. But your hard work will create distinction for you — because the majority of your competitors will not want to work that hard.
And grounded in that reality, Onward Nation, is your major opportunity. IF — you are willing to seize it. Just like Gary Vee did. He recognized it and then capitalized by being willing to work his guts out to make his vision a reality. I have a lot of respect for Gary — and anyone — who is willing to do that.
My guess is you are already familiar with Gary Vee — but just in case you’re not — Gary is the founder of Vaynermedia and one of today’s foremost social media experts. He is the bestselling author of four books. In my opinion, his social media book, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” is the best social media book ever written. It is outstanding. And it is just as relevant today as it was when it was released in November 2013. The consumer behavior and platform strategy Gary sets forth within the book is still spot on.
But “Gary Vee” has not always been “Gary Vee.”
In fact, just a mere 10 years ago, Gary was largely unknown on the social media scene. Gary was the director of operations at his family’s liquor store in New Jersey. He didn’t have 1.2 million Twitter followers then. Vaynermedia didn’t exist. YouTube was just getting underway, same with Twitter, and nearly zero companies were investing in building out video blogs or becoming their own “media channel”.
But Gary was different. He could see that he needed to create a “platform” by sharing valuable content via the social Internet. And he decided to do just that.
Before we go much further — let’s have a quick definition — what’s a “platform?”
At its core — a platform is what you stand for — your ideals — your vision — your purpose inside your business or in your life. But, platform has also morphed into meaning your audience, or followers, your tribe, your community, or sometimes even the size of your audience.
So from a business perspective, building a platform, depending on your industry, can make all of the difference.
During episode 42 of Onward Nation, you will hear Gary and I talk about the early days of Wine Library and his strategy behind it.
Gary said to me, “I started Wine Library TV because I was worried about the vulnerability of us and wineries selling direct to consumers. And I figured if I became influential, that me as a curator would protect me against wineries selling direct to consumers.” — Gary Vaynerchuk, episode 42 of Onward Nation.
You can also find the video interview Gary and I did at Vaynermedia here:
Gary launched Wine Library TV on May 17, 2006. Very few businesses had a video blog — and no one in the wine industry did. Yet he did it anyway.
And for the first year or so — each episode reached more and more people — but slowly. Wine Library TV was not an overnight success.
To Gary’s credit — and one of the things I admire most about him — he looks for opportunity in business — where are the untapped “wells” — and then he plants his flag — he puts up his drilling rig — and he drills and inch wide and a mile deep — and doesn’t stop.
Now, truth be told, Gary might be the only person in the field drilling — and sometimes, Onward Nation — being the early adopter, can be a very lonely feeling. But when Gary is convinced the strategy will work — he commits the necessary resources to learn all that is necessary and then make it work.
Does that mean Gary is successful 100 percent of the time?
No, no one ever is. But success and failure are all part of the process — the ying and the yang to it all.
But he was willing to stake his claim and then make improvements along the way. To illustrate my point…if you go to the show notes for this episode — we have embedded the videos for Gary’s Episode 1 and Episode 1,001 so you can see how the Wine Library TV evolved over time. Take some time to compare the on-screen graphics, Gary’s comfort level in front of the camera, the background, and the lighting between the two episodes.
Both episodes are off-the-charts for content — and this may surprise you a bit — but I actually prefer Episode 1 over Episode 1,001. But it isn’t because Episode 1,001 under delivers — it doesn’t. I like Episode 1 so much because it is the start of something amazing, something inspiring. It is the first edition of something that went on to change the wine industry and to propel the success of Gary’s family business. Wine Library TV — and Gary’s talent of discerning opportunities from the clutter — thrust him into the social media spotlight.
I like Episode 1 because of the guts it took Gary to produce it — and then — the commitment to produce an excellent show fives times a week. That is how you build a platform, Onward Nation. Not overnight. Gary knew he could win over the long term if he was willing and disciplined enough to play for long term wins…and not to try and create an overnight success.
So what was the resulting outcome of Wine Library TV? Gary and his family grew their business from $3 million to over $60 million a year in sales as a direct result of Wine Library TV.
Wow, Onward Nation. 20x growth for their business. And they did it because of Gary’s unwavering long-term commitment to this philosophy. “Creating content for the social Internet is literally the cost of relevance in today’s society.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
Well done, my friend.
Now, if you are thinking about Gary’s success — his long-term commitment — and then thinking to yourself, “Yeah, but I could never do that.” And you are starting to feel some hesitation right now as you question yourself on whether you could follow in Gary’s footsteps and apply his recipe and strategy to your industry. The answer is yes you can…but…I want you to take a moment to consciously realize something here.
I want you to realize that any hesitancy you may be feeling right now about building your platform is the Imposter Syndrome attempting to hold you back!
That voice you may be hearing inside your head asking you the painful question of, “Who do you think you are? To launch a podcast — who would listen to you — what do you have to say that is worthy of sharing?”
Those are tough questions to listen to, Onward Nation. Very tough. Aren’t they?
And I will tell you that I hear the voices and those questions every day. And whoa…the voices really kick into overdrive every time I sit down at my desk to write out my thoughts for each and every weekly solocast.
But…and this is really important…I push through the fears, the doubts, the struggles with myself because my conviction behind the purpose of Onward Nation is drilled deep into the Earth.
My team and I are fully committed to being outstanding — delivering our best to you every day, no matter how long it takes us to build what we are focused on building. This is a long-term strategy for us just like Wine Library TV was as it has been for Gary.
So, Onward Nation — for you to build a rockin’ awesome platform that creates distinction for you in your marketplace or industry, you need that same time of long-term commitment. No matter what the tech is — doesn’t matter if you create a podcast, an awesome YouTube channel, an insightful blog as a resource for your customers and prospects, or if your customers are on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter in droves — then be there with them to have a conversation.
Or, if your customers are on Instagram — then be there.
If they are on Snapchat — then be there.
Or, if you have a decent connection with customers via email — then strengthen your relationships via email and provide deep, deep, deep value.
To help guide you on this path — I outlined 5 key steps in a brief action plan that I think will be helpful as you consider the type of platform you want to build. But one final word of caution before I share the steps. And that is — in the wise words of Ty Bennett, “Just pick one platform — master it — go deep — and then maybe add a second. But first — master one.” Wise words that Ty shared during our recent encore interview…episode 212.
So here are the action steps, Onward Nation. A business building — platform building recipe for you. My hope for you is that you will put these steps into practice with relentless action and execution:
- Find out where your customers hang out. Do they listen to podcasts? Are they on Twitter? Are they on LinkedIn? Are they on YouTube? Find out. How? Ask them. Take a survey. Send an email. Make some phone calls. Post on Facebook, post on Twitter…pick a path and create a conversation and ask your customers and prospects questions. Have the courage to ask and learn — even if the answers make you uncomfortable. Think of it this way…if the answers make you uncomfortable — wouldn’t you rather have that information sooner rather than later so you can make changes and deliver more value to your customers instead of them leaving and doing business with a competitor who they believe is more influential and delivers more value than you do? I know…ouch, right? But you can’t fix it if you ignore there’s a problem or an untapped opportunity, Onward Nation.
- Create a content strategy. And your strategy should accomplish two things: 1) deliver massive value to your customers and prospects. MASSIVE VALUE. Don’t skimp. And 2) ensure that what you are delivering will position you as a thought leader and influencer just like Gary Vee accomplished with Wine Library TV. And by doing so — you will create distinctiveness for your business — just like Scott McKain recommends, our guest during episodes 1 and 136 of Onward Nation.
- Ignore the Imposter Syndrome. Push past it and begin building your content, building your platform, and prepare for launch. Don’t let the questions in your head derail your success. I encourage you to go back and re-listen to episode 158 — which I dedicated toward defeating the Imposter Syndrome — it will be a great resource for you. Because Onward Nation…you are more talented, more wonderful, more gifted, more incredible than you can possibly imagine. You are a child of the highest God and were blessed with an abundance of talent — don’t give in — build the content and it will get easier over time.
- Execute your strategy — push the launch button! Will your podcast, videos, or blog be perfect on day 1? No! Will you be embarrassed at first? Maybe. But as Reid Hoffman the founder of LinkedIn said, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Does that mean you just launch something that is half-baked? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that your podcast will never be perfect…you will learn along the path…your listeners will help you get better…and until you have the courage to put yourself out there…you will never receive that valuable feedback. So have the guts — build something great — realize that perfection is not attainable — and that part of the fun is to improve along the way. It’s the journey, Onward Nation — it is valuable to your growth and really fun for your listeners to watch how you evolve and change because of their comments and recommendations.
- Don’t stop. Never give up, Onward Nation. Keeping moving forward — success is there for you — just not overnight. It will take time — but it is funny how quality eventually rises to the top. It is a struggle — you will feel the pressure but pressure is a necessary force of nature — and pressure creates an astonishing result outcomes. For example…how is a diamond formed? By placing coal under intense pressure for a very long time. Or, how is oil formed? By placing organic material under extreme pressure and heat for a long period of time. Or, say you turn your garden hose on without any sort of nozzle at the end. What happens? Right, you get a steady stream of water coming out the end of the hose. But what happens when you place your thumb over the end of the hose and apply pressure to the water? The water shoots out the hose, doesn’t it? See? That is how pressure transforms and creates a fun and exciting result outcome. So don’t run from the pressure in your business or the pressure you might be feeling as you consider a podcast or some other platform building strategy. That pressure is your guiding force and it will direct you toward big result outcomes if you let it. So don’t ever give up — just remember — when you are feeling the pressure — you are likely to soon experience massive growth and your business is about to jettison forward into something amazing. Keep the faith, Onward Nation and never give up.
So with that…I want to thank you again for taking the time to be here with me today. It is an honor to have you here — thank you for tuning in — I am delighted you chose this episode to be what you listen to, study, and take with you on your morning run, or maybe Onward Nation has become part of your daily commute, or in some other way has become part of your morning routine.
However our daily podcast fits into your daily routine — I want you to know how much I appreciate you sharing some of your invaluable 86,400 seconds you have in your day with me and the strategies we learn and share each day from today’s top business owners.
And please continue to let me know what you think of Onward Nation…good or bad…I always want your feedback. My direct email address is email@example.com — and yes — that is my actual Inbox. No fancy filters or filing system and I read and reply to every single email.
So please let me know how you think we are doing. I look forward to hearing from you.
We will be back tomorrow with an incredible encore interview with Morag Barrett, founder and CEO of leading HR consultancy SkyeTeam. You will love her message about the imposter syndrome and how she believes we are all making it up, every day. She’s amazing. You will not want to miss this discussion, Onward Nation!
Until then, onward with gusto!